Annual Report 2019-20: Extracts from the Directors' Report

The Harpenden Trust has published its Annual Report for the Year Ended 31 March 2020.

The full Annual Report and further information is available under About us > Funding the Trust.

Below are extracts from the Directors Report:

THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Although this Directors’ Report covers the twelve-month period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, it almost goes without saying that it is the final month that has had the most dramatic impact on Harpenden and the Trust’s activities.  The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented and uncertain environment for all communities and had an immediate impact on the lives of many vulnerable individuals locally.  The 70-year history of the Harpenden Trust has centred around our ability to step up to the plate swiftly and support our local community when it has needed us most – and this we did in 2020, delivering immediate support across our community.

As part of the Harpenden Cares initiative, we substantially scaled-up our Care Fund operations, in particular  establishing a fully staffed call-centre based at our main Southdown Halls to act as the ‘Harpenden Cares Contact Centre’.  This Contact Centre has provided the necessary link between requests for assistance and the resources available to meet those requests.

Within a matter of a few days in early March we had transformed the original single telephone line into the Trust offices into a fully operational 12 line call centre with a newly installed VOIP system, combining a 24 hour answering service capability and all linked to the original Harpenden Trust telephone number – 01582 460457.  A newly recruited team of more than 20 Call Handlers, all local volunteers, stepped forward to handle the calls received between 10am and 2pm each weekday (including all Bank Holidays), ensuring all callers received an immediate warm and empathetic response.  Over the initial 8 weeks, we became the voice of Harpenden Cares, handling a huge variety of requests. At the outset we were answering between 150 and 170 calls per week. The majority of calls related to assisted shopping and prescription / medication pickup, although in reality there was rarely such a thing as a “standard call”.  Over time, the Foodbank began to operate on a regular delivery schedule sometimes weekly but often fortnightly, reducing the overall volume of calls. 

There was an ever-rising demand for our Befriending activities, with now currently over 40 members.  We were also asked by the St Albans, Harpenden and Redbourn GP Federation to take on delivering and collecting back oxygen saturation monitors between the established Halley Stewart hub and patients’ homes.

We have developed our internal CharityLog system to be accessible to our Harpenden Cares partners. This has allowed us to send requests for assistance directly from CharityLog to our partners, including for a Foodbank operated by The Salvation Army; for a shopping service coordinated by Bethany Church and for medical needs which mainly involves collecting and delivering prescriptions. 

Our expanded Care Fund operations have accessed our extensive existing Harpenden Trust volunteer network.  This is in addition to our regular office volunteers.  Home visits have been operating via telephone consultations and we have been able to provide a shopping service for clients who are self-isolated.  For our regular clients (from Christmas parcels, utilities and outings) we have been giving them a friendly call to check on their well-being.

We have an incredible team of volunteers who have enabled us to scale-up our operations in this way, in record time and to whom we offer our huge thanks. Thanks are also due to our partners across the Harpenden Cares network, as it has been a direct result of all the tremendous teamwork that has enabled us to answer well over 1,000 calls to the Contact Centre and meet all the requests for assistance we have received so far.  This was a truly wonderful achievement – all enabled by some amazing individuals – and the Directors could not be more proud of everything the Harpenden Trust and its volunteers have all achieved in this period.   The directors each offer a simple but sincere “Thank You” to all who have played their part.

 

THE ACTIVITIES OF THE TRUST

The main activities of the Trust which form the strategy for the Trust to achieve its charitable purposes span three core areas:

The Care Fund

Much of the work of the Care Fund is anonymous. It relies heavily on the funds raised by the Harpenden Trust’s Annual Christmas Appeal. During the period April 2019 - March 2020, the Harpenden Trust Care Fund offered support for individuals, families and young people within Harpenden. As in previous years, its activities during this period included:

·         Home Visitors calling on those in need and arranging confidential help, from funding utility bills, to providing food or clothing vouchers or assisting with the supply of new or recycled furniture and even white goods.

·         Members of our Befriending team regularly visiting people living on their own or feeling isolated for a cup of tea and a chat.

·         Harpenden’s Seniors joining us on various day or half-day coach outings to the coast, countryside or garden centres.  Those who might be lonely or housebound over Christmas receive food parcels.  Some join us all year round at one or two local coffee mornings each week. Assistance is also available to those on low pensions, with a grant towards utility payments.

·         Supporting young people whose families feel unable to meet the cost of school uniforms or essential school trips.

As noted in the earlier section of this report headed “The Coronavirus Pandemic”, while some of our activities such as the coffee  mornings and coach outings have had to be put on hold, many of these vital services have still continued during 2020.

The Community Fund

The Harpenden Trust Community Fund provides support for community schemes and projects in the Harpenden area from a substantial capital donation received in 2008 from the Abbeyfield (Harpenden) Society Limited.  Since that time it has made over 100 grants to local organisations – from schools, youth and sports clubs; to choirs, churches and charities – in support of their projects. 

The Community Fund looks to make grants on condition that these are for defined projects or specific purposes, rather than funding regular operating costs, although it considers all applications and is able to help cover temporary funding gaps that can arise in austere times.  As always, to decide between different applications can be a challenging task, but the Community Fund sets out to support specific projects which will benefit all sectors of the community; young, old, disabled, sporting, educational. 

We continue to support schools significantly and this last year have helped Sauncey Wood Primary School to erect an outside classroom.  Teenagers have continued to benefit through continuing support to Youth Talk, the Lions and Young Enterprise with money towards Life Skills programmes and Business Schemes.  Musical Memories is greatly helping people with dementia through music and Pop-up Pottery has increased its equipment to meet rising demand.  The community has benefitted from the re-laying of the very dilapidated car park at St Mary’s Church which also serves many others who use the very popular hall.  A new freezer has been purchased for the Human Breast Milk centre in Rothamsted and Batford Memorial Hall have been able to replace their antiquated heating system (not central heating) with modern radiators.  After their recent move back to Harpenden, CAB were helped with IT set-up costs.

Since the creation of the Community Fund in 2008, nearly £700,000 has now been given to local organisations.

The Harpenden Trust Centre / Hall Hire

Located in the heart of Southdown, the Harpenden Trust Centre has two modern, well-equipped halls for hire for a range of community activities, both regular and one-off. Throughout the year, until the coronavirus pandemic had its impact, a wide variety of clubs, societies and classes have met regularly, and we have again hosted a number of children’s parties and charity fundraisers. 

The Renwick Hall, at approximately 1,080sq ft and with a capacity of 80 persons seated (or 120 standing), is most suitable for larger children’s parties, larger meetings and lectures, or dance and exercise classes.  The smaller Randall Room is just under 300sq ft and has a capacity of 40 persons seated (50 standing), being more suitable for adult classes, smaller children’s classes and choirs, yoga and similar events. All hires include the use of a fully fitted kitchen.

We undertake a continuing programme of maintenance and enhancement of these facilities.  During the year under review, we are pleased to have completed the equipping of each hall with an induction loop facility which is available to hirers at no extra charge, and have enhanced the facility in the Renwick Hall by incorporating a PA system.

 

VOLUNTEERS

The Trust operates almost exclusively on a volunteer basis and we are most fortunate to have had the services of more than 400 unpaid volunteers during the course of the year. We would not function without the generosity of time donated by so many dedicated local people.

To put this into some perspective, without the enthusiasm, drive, professionalism and commitment of all the Trust’s volunteers, we would not this year have:

·         made approximately 50 home visits per month and so enabled  families to be assisted by financial and other means, also with furniture needs;

·         organised three coach outings and a tea party for 129 elderly people;

·         organised a trip to Chessington World of Adventure for 63 children and their helpers;

·         ensured that 82 people received help with their utility bills;

·         enabled 46 children in Harpenden schools to go on curriculum-related trips;

·         enabled 141 residents to receive Christmas parcels;

·         provided an active befriending service;

·         delivered c.10,000 Christmas Appeal envelopes in 400 roads and collected back c.5,000 envelopes – involving 222 organisers and collectors.

We thank every one of our volunteers who give so generously of their time and skills. Their enthusiasm and dedication is much appreciated by everyone.

11 August 2020

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